While there is growing understanding and interest in inbound marketing from small businesses, once the promise of it has been defined the next question is: how much is it going to cost to do inbound marketing?
It's a fair question and one that can be challenging to answer quickly and correctly. First of all, the agencies and consultants who offer inbound marketing services have a varying list of services they offer and different approaches to how they sell those services.
Some agencies have created packages - which are essentially a range of services and activities bundled together to provide for the most common client needs. These are typically offered in tiers - the lower priced tier addresses smaller budgets and simpler execution, while the higher priced tiers cover a deeper set of needs and a greater range of activities.
Others utilize a discovery process where they assess a business's current inbound marketing status and customize the support based on the specific needs identified in the assessment.
So, if you're a business owner and you're new to inbound marketing, how do you know what to look for and determine if the prices are fair? The first step is to categorize the level of need you have in order to properly leverage inbound marketing.
High Need Businesses
If you have most or all of the following needs, you would be in the high need category:
- Website should be redesigned
- Website content is minimal
- No blog established
- Little or no customer and prospect data
- Have not used or lightly use email
- No calls to action on the site
- No landing pages on the site
- Little or no supporting content (articles, case studies, tip sheets, video)
- No defined keyword list
- No marketing plan
High need businesses would be faced with higher support costs because of the many foundational pieces that need to be built to support inbound marketing. Site redesign and the development of a marketing plan would be upfront costs, while the rest of the support would be on an ongoing basis. These upfront costs can range from $1,000 to $3,000 or more depending on the sophistication of the site design and plan depth. Monthly costs can range from $1,500 to $5,000 or more depending on the depth of the monthly support - typically, they lead to the high side due to the deeper need set.
Low Need Businesses
If you have many or most of the following marketing assets in place, your business would fall in the low need category:
- Good website structure and depth (100 pages +)
- Some call to action on the site
- Dedicated landing pages on the site
- A blog
- Prospect and customer data
- Prior history in emailing prospects and customers
- A decent content library (10 - 20 assets in place)
- Defined keyword list and rank data for top keywords
- A marketing plan
A low need business typically has inbound marketing momentum and may have stalled in one or more areas or needs a tighter focus in these areas to lift performance results. The upfront costs disappear in this case and the monthly support fees typically are lower due to having the foundational pieces in place. Inbound marketing support costs can range from $1,000 to $3,500 or more, again, this is highly dependent on the complexity and depth of the support provided.
With both of these categories, the pricing above does not reflect any marketing technology costs: marketing automation, CRM, email or ecommerce software. The range of products available and the price variances are wide - they range from $200 per month to $3,000 per month or more depending on the software versions that are purchased.
Businesses with higher priced services or products usually have longer sales cycles and additional costs can be incurred with the integration of multiple systems. Integration costs can be monthly and range from $80 per month to $500 per month or more and some are one-time costs from $1,500 to $5,000.
You don't have to be a CPA to understand that inbound marketing can be a sizable investment. One you have the costs and services defined, the next step is to look at the return on investment requirement. Determine what the average value of a new customer is and weigh that against the projected investment. It helps to know site traffic to lead conversion numbers and lead to sale conversion numbers. Low need businesses will likely have access to this data; high need businesses won't and will have to rely on realistic projections of the traffic to lead to sale ratios to justify any investment.
The bottom line: do your homework, talk to as many professionals as you need to get comfortable and prepare to be a partner in a successful inbound process!
What types of service offerings are you encountering and are they in line with the ranges discussed here? If you're a business buyer of inbound marketing services, what are your frustrations with the agency selling and pricing process? Your input is welcome and appreciated!
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